How do you put that bounce back in your step?
So you’ve had a whole string of bad days of training. Nothing you do seems to work. You’re being dominated by everyone, and getting tapped out right and left. The upside is that your training partners are ecstatic over your less than stellar performance. And can you blame them? But now you’ve had enough of it and you’re thinking you’ve got to do something to get back into the swing of things. Don't worry, this isn't the worst of it.
From time to time we all experience a down-turn in our performance. There are many reasons why this happens. You may just be having an off couple of days, you're nursing a minor injury, you're not sleeping right, you're coming off a cold, or you just got arrested the night before on an outstanding warrant and your head's just not in the game. In my case, sometimes I wake up and realize I'm 45 years old and just not as young as I used to be.
These short periods of ineptitude generally don't last too long and we're soon back in the saddle and on a normal path of progression. The real problem arises when you realize you're not just in a slump, but rather you're facing a full-on frontal assault in the form of a plateau. These plateaus generally hang on for weeks or months at a time, robbing you of your confidence and cementing your belief that in fact your performance is worsening day by day.
The problem is that you’re not sure what you need to do. Everything you’ve tried so far has failed. You tried bumping up your level of intensity, only to get gassed while your opponent easily danced around your guard, and then tapped you with a rookie submission.
Even though you knew you weren’t at the top of your game, you rolled with that particularly crafty grappler anyway, only to be rewarded with a demoralizing loss. Now that certainly was a self-fulfilling prophecy in which you subconsciously knew what the outcome would be.
And let’s not forget that your old standby technique, that favorite submission that you almost always get, is now a distant memory because everyone has figured out how to defend against it. Have I painted a sufficiently gloomy and eerily familiar picture for you? You’re experiencing the dreaded plateau (insert dramatic music here).
Now it’s time to get back to work. Your break time is over. That swamp you’ve been drudging through has totally and utterly exhausted you to the point where you’ve started to question your resolve. From the words of a particularly nasty Ranger Instruction, you can quit anytime you want, but there isn’t going to be a chopper coming in to haul your ass out, so you better dig deep and find the courage to carry on and get yourself out of this mess.
Believe me, there is hope. And as a matter of fact, these are the times when we grow the most. If this is the first time you’ve experienced a plateau, don’t worry, it won’t be your last. You’ll have plenty more opportunities to work through them.
I'm going to share with you some of my own tips that have helped me to work through my plateaus to get back on top of my game.
1. Change the focus of your training. For example, if you've been thinking about how you should start working on upping your cardio workout, this could be the perfect time to redirect your focus. If you've been thinking about how you always get tapped out by Bubba with the same technique, this could be the time to focus on just that one thing. Get with your instructor, a senior student or Bubba to figure out what you're doing wrong, what you can do to legitimately defend and counter the move.
2. Narrow your focus to concentrate on smaller goals. For example, I remember when I first realized the concept of controlling my opponent's hips while I was in their guard. I would work this one small thing to the point where I began learning new and different ways to control, using my hands, arms or body. As I progressed on this one thing, I began to learn more about how my partner moved, and this broadened my perspective on other things.
3. Take a break, clear your head. Sometimes you're too close to the trees to see the forest. Tell yourself that it's okay to take a short time away from your grappling so as to break up the routine.
4. Use your mind gym to visualize and work through various grappling scenarios. The power of this method of positive thinking is often overlooked, but can be extremely beneficial.
I would also like to share with you some great tips from Adam Adshead, at Conceptual BJJ. Adam writes from the perspective of how to revitalize your game, and uses the term, “Move One Down, in short, it basically means moving to the next viable move/position instead of falling back into old habits of going for the same things."
Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel here, take a look at Adam’s post:
Ideas on revitalising your game: ‘Move one down’
In this short video, Adam talks about his tips with a brief demonstration.